Saturday, 29 April, 2017

New Mexico outlaws lunch shaming

'Lunch shaming' to end as New Mexico signs law banning the humiliation of poor students New Mexico outlaws lunch shaming
Cecilia Poole | 11 April, 2017, 00:19

In Pennsylvania, a cafeteria worker says she was ordered to throw away a hot lunch that she had already served to a first grader and give him a plain cheese sandwich instead (though the school denied her account of what happened.) In Utah, dozens of elementary school children had to watch their lunches thrown away because they owed money - but cafeteria staff couldn't check the kids' balances until after they had served them.

Gov. Susana Martinez signed the "Hunger-Free Students' Bill of Rights". This might involve throwing out the kid's lunch food, making them do chores in return for a meal, or making them wear wristbands signifying the bill delinquency.

The law, which passed 30-7 in the state Senate and unanimously in the state House of Representatives, applies to public, private, and religious schools alike. Michael Padilla, who grew up in foster homes and experienced shaming tactics as a child, said he introduced the bill because of his harrowing experience growing up. Thank goodness they took care of me, but I had to do other things like mop the floor in the cafeteria.

Parents across the country are reacting to a new law in New Mexico that prevents what they call "lunch shaming". It also goes a step further and prohibits schools from embarrassing or punishing students for a lunch money deficit.

Some schools have told lunch workers to throw a child's hot lunch in the garbage if there's not enough money in his or her account to pay for it, The New York Times reported.

The Times points out that schools feel pressure to collect debts - which can run up to millions of dollars in some districts - because schools can't use federal funds to offset the costs, meaning they have to find the money elsewhere.

School meal debt isn't a joke.

In the case of New Mexico, the new law will still allow schools to penalize students in other ways, such as withholding a transcript or revoking parking passes for older students.

Ramo emphasized that the bill would change the previously direct relationship between school-owed debts and students.

Crystal FitzSimons, director of school and out-of-school-time programs at the Food Research & Action Center, discussed how the new policy would effect New Mexico schools.

Unfortunately, this is not the only state with students facing school meal debt. Texas and California also have laws on the books banning the practice in schools.

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